littlewonder2

Little wonder we stumble in life.


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The Ghost Story vs The Supernatural

Today in class we focused on ghost stories and the supernatural; and during the portion of the class dedicated to ghost stories, most people in class had some story to tell about hearing voices, dogs reacting to sounds, minor mysteries and the sort. The whole time, I was repressing a story of the night I spent in a haunted house and the gate that wouldn’t open, because I mean, that’s not a ghost story. Freak accidents aren’t ghost stories, at least not to me. There are no ghosts involved in what’s happening here, and there was a rational explanation for every single one.

But then the teacher said, that in writing ghost stories, you cannot rationalise anything you are writing about. The second you do, the story loses its essence and becomes real; that is, it loses its believability.

But the thing is, none of these stories were believable, at all. So when the teacher asked if ghost stories had any place in the modern world, I shook my head and answered with an emphatic ‘no‘.

But that isn’t to say it hasn’t been successfully done. Supernatural, for example, or Ghostbusters. These are both popular fictionalisations of that kind of world, and the world is constructed well enough to be believable. So obviously it can be done. What I think I meant is, I can’t do it. I rationalise things constantly; if I didn’t, I’d think I was a moron and would probably hate myself. So I personally couldn’t write a ghost story.

But then we come to the supernatural, and here is where things change a bit. Because while I don’t believe in either the supernatural or ghost stories in real life, the supernatural is more believable on a fictional plane. Perhaps because practically speaking, the supernatural requires a lot more than just psychological moronic impressions to prove. Yes, the creation of impressions over the rational is probably still required, but not as much.

In Supernatural, although I remain a skeptic reluctant to accept  things like that salt can get rid of spirits, when it comes to the world of angels and demons, that is constructed more intricately, so I can believe it more. That’s the sort of thing I mean.

So in saying that I couldn’t write a ghost story, but I could probably write a fantasy or supernatural story, what I mean is that I could better believe in a fantasy world containing both the impressions of reality and the mechanics of it, rather than just a world of lucidity alone. That’s the kind of story I strive for.

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Uni: Week 2

Okay, so I didn’t exactly post for the first week. Brief overview: I went to lectures, and Japanese tutes (tutorials). I spent the week obsessively reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin, so I could have it done by this week (btw mission accomplished). The lecture theatre for Victorians to Moderns is weird; the seats are attached to the table, and swing out, and we get actual desks instead of a little slab.

Now that’s out of the way…

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned, but my other classes are Wonder Worlds (an English Lit class) and Novel Ideas. I didn’t have the book for that, so I basically had to look up the short stories from it online. I found 2/3, at least. My favourite of the two was A Stone Woman. I really like the way AS Byatt constructs the stone woman; I feel I could use the same kind of techniques in fleshing out my vampires’ legends.

So basically, my Novel Idea lecture was talking about each story — two of which I hadn’t yet read — and then I went home and found A Stone Woman, and finished it just in time to make it to the Novel Ideas tute. My tutor is called Melanie, and we had to go around the room stating our name, program, and preferred genre to write.

That wasn’t nearly as bad as my Wonder Worlds or Victorians to Moderns tutes though, which are incidentally taught by the same tutor; an American called Ginna. She asked for name, program and weird fact about yourself. In Wonder Worlds, I skipped over that last one. In Victorians to Moderns, I was a bit more nervous, stumbling and pausing over my introduction and answers. I forgot if I was supposed to say my name. Luckily, I was wearing my Deathly Hallows necklace at the time, so that gave me more freedom to talk about my weird fact:

“It’s from Harry Potter. It’s the symbol of the Deathly Hallows.”

“Have you read all the books?” asked Ginna.

“Yes.”

“Have you read them again?”

“I… come back to them sometimes.” By which I meant, I only use them as references for writing fan fiction. Or going back to passages I particularly like.

“You come back to them sometimes… How about the movies? Have you seen them?”

“Yes, I’ve seen all the books and all the movies. I like wizard rock. Yeah, and… all that.”

Nobody asked me what wizard rock was. Probably, none of them noticed the out-of-the-ordinary reference. But to be fair, while the class was going on, I spotted out of the window a girl in a TARDIS hoodie climbing a flight of stairs, so maybe nerd is commonplace at Uni.

The only time since then I stumbled on my words was when we were calling out modern social issues. I made a string of vaguely-connected sounds, before blowing a raspberry and collapsing on the desk to compose myself before trying again. “Genital mutilation,” I said. According to an opinionated atheist in the class, there are areas where the women perpetuate it, believing they wouldn’t be who they are without it.

Before the lecture for this very class, I also had a little adventure. I was sitting by myself, practising my kanji in my Japanese journal, when this girl comes along asking if she can sit. Even now, I’m not sure her name. “Sure,” I said. But I wasn’t sure whereabouts she wanted to sit, so suddenly I was afraid she meant to sit by me, and I needed to move over.

“It’s okay, I’m not one of those bitches who makes you leave. You were there first,” she assured me, and settled on the table-shaped bench, taking her shoes off and making herself at home.

We talked for a bit, when she asked about my Japanese. After I finished, I started reading Slaughterhouse Five for Novel Ideas. For a while, I settled in, laying down myself. “We’re paying too much not to,” the girl agreed.

But then, my classmate from last week came around, and I came to sit up again to read. He’s a big burly guy, with wavy long hair for a guy. Last week, he’d just started Uncle Tom’s Cabin when I was already on Chapter 8. This week, he confessed he wasn’t finished. I bragged that I was.

Slowly, mystery girl figured out the connection. “You’re in Creative Writing,” she deduced. “Oh, yeah, cause you just said it.”

From the conversations between the three of us, I learned that she was studying Social Work (which she insisted was boring, but that all three of us were creative students and thus “the cool kids”. I concurred), she was 22, her father was something of a writer, and her favourite comedians were Key and Peele. She showed us, the ignorant two, a skit they did. It was actually pretty funny; I was laughing. She was also horrified to find out neither of us does snap chat. I thought of mentioning my sister did it, but decided not to.

Mystery girl is actually the reason I wore my Deathly Hallows necklace to tute next day; she had a Deathly Hallows tattoo on her neck, and I never mentioned my matching necklace, so I wanted to at least show someone. Paul, (that was the other student’s name), did notice. Apparently we’re in the same tute class, and he’s every bit as sociable as mystery girl. Although he surely doesn’t have tatts and piercings like she does.

Eventually, she left with her own classmates, off to Building C where her lecture (at the same time as ours) was. It was only then that Paul realised neither of us caught her name. I’d been thinking of asking her before. Just another thing I held back.


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The Second World War Two

The two women were talking with such familiarity that it was hard to believe they were speaking another language.

“Do you know what they’re saying,” Matt asked, nodding his head towards the two gossiping Indians.

“I don’t speak Indian, I’m afraid. But I do speak Japanese.”

“You speak Jap?” he said, as though he’d been dragged out of time from the second world war. “Me and my brother have one. If I bring you along, can you translate some of the things he’s been saying?”

“Sure. Yeah, sure, maybe. I mean, I don’t really know; I only speak basic Japanese, so I’d only really be able to understand so much of what he’s saying…”

“Well okay,” he said. “I guess that’s close enough. Come with me.”

I followed him, and met up with his brother. “This girl says she speaks Jap. She might be able to translate our perps words.”

Sam looked at her. “Okay, but don’t get freaked out by what you see in there. It’s all for a higher purpose…”

When the boys walked me in, the room was dank, dripping, black and darkest grey, rotting. The Japanese man was tied to a chair in the middle with rope, his face bleeding and eyes piercing. Under him, there was a huge pentagram in what I considered to be his blood.

Shocked, I moved forward towards him emphatically. “Doshita no?” What happened?

Bitterly, he spat out a response. All I heard was, “Anata no tomodachi wa…” before a string of words punctuated by anger spewed from his mouth.

“What did he say?” asked Matt.

I turned back to him. “I don’t know,” I admitted. “All I caught was, ‘your friends’…”

“Yeah, right, okay…”

I turned back to the man. “Anata wa… nani ga hoshii desu ka?” What do you want?

He spoke again. He repeated ‘your friends’, but one other word stuck out particularly. “Shinu?” I cried.

“Shinu!” he repeated adamantly.

“What’d he say?”

“He wants you dead,” I repeated, still staring at shock at him before I turned to Matt.

“That’s it, he’s dead –”

I spread my hands out, protecting the Japanese man. This was not World War Two, and this man was not evil.

“Get out of the way, Emily,” said Matt.

“No,” I said. “You brought me in here to translate his words, and that’s what I plan to do. You really wanna go ahead and kill him just because he wants you dead? Look at him! You’ve obviously tied him up and tortured him, what do you expect from him? You wanted information, right?”

“She’s right,” said Sam.

“I don’t give a damn!” cried Matt. “She can’t tell us anything anyway, so barely speaks it! Get out of the way, Emily. I promise you he deserves it!”

“She was able to tell us he wants us dead,” said Sam. “Maybe she still has some use.”

Matt looked between Emily and Sam resentfully. “Fine,” he said, “I’ll give it one more shot. But that’s it, alright?”

“Got it,” said Sam.


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You’re All Different: A look at fiction and society

Recently I was thinking about a documentary I once saw. It was about Merlin, that wizard of myth originally created by Geoffrey of Monmouth. Towards the end of that documentary, it talked about JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. It said that the two famous authors used to meet in a pub and talk about Merlin; and that characters in both their writings had a character based on him, the one Aslan, and the other Sauron.

I have since wondered whether the documentary got it wrong, and they were really talking about God. I know at least one of them was a Christian man, and by assumption, so is the other. But that thought didn’t sit well with me, so for a while, I pretended it really was Merlin.

I realise, though, that the reason Merlin sits better with me is because I know he isn’t real, and I’m also assuming other people do too. After all, I watched the documentary; I know he isn’t real. But the fact is, other people won’t have seen it. If those people suddenly started saying that Merlin really was the one who created Stonehenge — Geoffrey’s most famous tale, and one he invented to give Merlin some credibility — it would piss me off. Because I know full well (from another documentary) that Stonehenge was actually created in the late Stone Age by early man.

Another popular story about Stonehenge was that aliens helped. That one pisses me off even more; what does it say about how man sees himself? Do we think we’re capable of nothing? Stonehenge was a great human achievement, and far from the last. And we did it all by ourselves.

But I digress: what I’m really trying to say is that I don’t think people believe in Merlin, but they do still believe in God. And that worries me, because stories have power, especially stories people think are true but aren’t. I write stories myself, but I would never try to pass them off as the truth. And yet, at the very least, the writers of the bible have done just that, in order to persuade — manipulate — people to act and think a certain way. They use fear of hell at the very least to inform this.

What pisses me off about God is that it gives people an excuse not to think for themselves. Like those stories of Merlin or aliens, it gives people something to alleviate either responsibility or pressure, and makes them complacent. Perhaps they want to relax, and maybe that’s understandable, but it pushes down our potential, it takes away from us what we could do, it takes away from us self-belief and puts it into something else, so we become little more than sheep or cattle, following a grand master. And I’m not okay with that.

I’ll admit once I thought I was worthless, when I was a kid I even imagined a God and thus believed it. And then when I was a teenager, I continued to struggle. But the point is, I wasn’t worthless. And the fact that we have to make up ridiculous stories just to cope with ourselves or our lives is insulting to me.

Monty Python’s The Life of Brian put it best:

Brian: You’re all individuals!

Crowd: Yes, we are all individuals.

Brian: You’re all different!

Crowd: Yes, we are all different.

Crowd Member 1: I’m not.

Crowd Member 2: Ssh!

Brian: You’ve got to work it out for yourselves! Otherwise–

Brian’s mother ushers him from the window.

Crowd: Ooh, that wasn’t a minute.

Brian’s Mother: Oh, yes it was!

Crowd: Oh, no it wasn’t!

Brian’s Mother: Now, stop that! And go away!


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Then and Now: Who I Was, and Who I Am as a Writer

Celebrating my first 10 years as a writer… Scott Westerfeld- On Rewriting & Growing Up

I recently read this article/pep talk by Scott Westerfeld in my email. Just like his pep during NaNo, this particular one was definitely insight and memorable — he really knows how to string two words together.

But the point was it really reminded me of where I started.

Here are the most important points he made, to start your revision by answering these questions:

  • Which scenes flowed from your pen, and which were clunky?
  • Which writerly decisions embarrass you now?
  • Which characters were like a bad relationship, and which turned out unexpectedly compelling?
  • Which goals that you started with aren’t worth pursuing anymore?
  • And what startling new vistas opened up?

For the first point, I’m reminded of the first scenes of the first two chapter in the first book in the series I’ve been writing for these past ten years. The very beginning, in short, of my entire story of Dawn, my centre character of it all.

The first chapter details her life on the mountain, living alone with her family. The set-up is that she lives in a house in the mountains in an abusive household isolated from society and dreaming of escape. She has an adoptive sister, her only support, but that doesn’t stop Dawn from gaining a hard shell or from thinking better of the world outside. And through all this, she has no idea just how close town really is, because she’s never escaped that far.

Throughout my drafting of this first chapter, I’ve gone through many different versions. At first, I had both parents, then I had the mother flee at the start of canon, and now I have her gone by the time Dawn was three, because I needed to tie in the details from later in the series, and Dawn discovers she has a biological sister. That was the biggest change.

Nevertheless, through the years, that first chapter and the one that follows is constantly being changed or fixed or edited because I just thought of something else that was wrong, or unrealistic, or that looks terrible. It’s always those two chapters. So I’d say, coming from that perspective, they must’ve been clunky, especially that first chapter. But as Scott points out in his pep talk, I was young and — maybe not so innocent, but maybe I was, if I was innocent in my ignorance.

And through those young dreams of running away (in my case, it was the reverse, though not nearly to the motivations that Dawn had), those first chapters were always, I think, my strongest. As far as first drafting goes, when I first wrote, it did feel relatively that it flowed, better than a lot of think in those early days. Maybe that’s why I’ve stuck to it for so long.

Let’s move along to the second point… embarrassing writerly mistakes.

If I could stick to those first few chapters, I’m sure that those mistakes probably still exist in my first book draft. Well, the way I wrote in those early days certainly held some common mistakes. I remember writing waking up scenes, trying to describe the characters appearance, etc.

Talking more on content, I think in that first draft, I took away from the abuse of the situation by making her escape in smaller ways. I remember a particular description of her escaping the house and going for a bush walk up the mountain, and specifically the feeling of a wall of sandstone under her fingers as she felt along the surface… Then in the dialogue scenes between her father, I don’t really think I had a grasp of what that scene would look like, or how it would feel. And describing her pain was another problem.

There were even small details when she was cleaning up on him and heard popular music on the radio, or when I would try to list the kinds of books her sister Belinda read…

Of course, none of this was as bad as chapter two, when the scenes escalated dramatically to finally escaping, only to meet a worse fate. The boys on the mountain… If I didn’t understand how her father would act, I had even less idea about the boys who wandered in from town, or what they were doing there. All I knew was what Dawn knew and felt.

All this is just the first two chapters, and although there are other things I’ve written, none of them really stick out in my head as strongly. Probably because in the very beginning of my writing, I was in the habit of editing those things over and over again instead of just pressing ahead with the writing. And of course, that’s where NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) stepped in to help me get rid of that habit, way back in 2007.

Of course, that brings me to the relationships with my characters. Well, of course there’s Dawn; me and her go way back, and I’ll always love her. She’s my favourite character to date, though Dylan takes second. Dylan was actually quite a surprise; I didn’t expect to love her as much as I do, but I managed to put more of myself than I ever expected to in her, and I love her for it.

Although she’s different from me in that she’s outspoken and determined, on the inside she has much of the same confusion and insecurities that I’ve dealt with in the past.

And then of course, there’s Seth, her brother. Another character I care a great deal about, he encompasses another side of me. That is, the side that wants to fight my reality, and all the indignities I find follows certain aspects of living. For example, sexuality in the public light. Partly oppressed by his dead adoptive father, he diminishes his public image to one of invisibility so as not to be judged unworthy, a fact that Dylan endlessly fights against. And I understand why, but I understand Seth’s point of view much better.

Now, as far as bad relationships, I do have something of and on-again-off-again relationship with Andrea. When I first invented her, it was as a match for Seth. Given a shaded past, I thought he deserved a companion, and then that relationship grew into something like love. But this was in their childhood, and even then, he had his reasons to keep distant.

But then, after years, when I finally came back to her story (after spending so long on Dawn’s), every time I tried to put them together, they somehow tore apart again. What’s definitely true is that Andrea really desperately cares for him. It’s also become clear that, in his own private way, he cares for her too. What’s unclear is how much, and what form that care takes.

Another iffy character of mine is Brenda. Sure, she shares certain traits in common with me, like her social isolation and her love of books, but Brenda’s one character that falls flat to me as her own person. I can sympathise her reasons for breaking up with her ex, but beyond that, she mostly remains a mystery to me.

Which brings me to Orion. My relationship with him is only a little better, even though I share less in common with him. What I do share in common is his sense of outrage, and his concealed defence of those he cares about. I’ve always hated his brother Alex, one of my first villains, but through his eyes I began to see him in a new light.

I’m not sure if there are goals I had at the start that aren’t worth pursuing anymore. I mean, certainly, the series that I’m writing now were once separate, as well as the characters, so maybe that. But besides that…

As far as startling new vistas… I’m going to University this year. I’ll probably post an entry on that later. And eventually, all my drafts will come together. As far as plotting, that’s something else I have to figure out, especially for the third book.

There’s still a lot to do before my first drafts of the whole series is complete. But as a writer, of course, I’m looking forward to it. Here’s hoping it’s all going to happen before the next ten years passes.


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The Final Trifecta: In The Cold

I can’t believe Trifecta is finally ending! Well, after all the entries I’ve contributed to our community, it’s only right I should come back for just one more. I wrote this back in February, but now I’m repurposing it for this final hurrah.

She huddled against the cold, clinging to the one tiny pocket she had in front of her and chilled to the bone everywhere else. She had been forced into this corner, once having all the luxuries of a bed and now forced into the cold hard floor in the middle of winter. Just outside the door, she heard voices. Full of bitterness, she listened.

“Do you think there’s any hope for her?”

She could see his face, just imagine it in her mind. Her brother. She felt nothing but hate for him, something he would never understand through all his little denials of the weight of his guilt. Nothing would ever be enough, not anymore. Her hate for him was the only thing that kept her strong.

“There could be,” explained a stranger. Could he have brought her some doctor to take her away? “I mean, from what you’ve told me… that is, she won’t agree with me, but I feel like I can understand…” A shuddering breath. So maybe not a doctor.

“What she said about… hating you being her only strength. I mean, yeah. I can get that. I think right now, her family’s her only hope. She doesn’t know it now, but there can be more… if she can find the strength in hate, maybe she can find a different strength. Not in you, perhaps, she hates you far too much for that, but her family… if she can find some love in them, maybe there’s still a chance for her to one day… forgive you too.”

The very thought made her furious. Forgive him! There was nothing in all the world to make her forgive him, not if she lived for a hundred years! She would never forgive, she never could, she refused! He had taken everything from her, her entire life! And there was nothing shameful in strength from hate. She would do anything, if it meant that she would be strong; anything, if it meant she would never be weak again! It was worth it in the end…

“I hope so,” he said, and she wanted to tear him from the earth. “But even if she doesn’t… it’s okay. I just want her to be happy again.”

He had everyone else fooled, but he didn’t fool her! He had all the strength of luxury, while she suffered in the cold! And even if she suffered it all, he remained blind to what it truly felt for her. He would never understand, so she could never forgive him. Just the very thought made her stomach turn.

He could never be forgiven. Her mind was too far gone for forgiveness. It rose like bile in her throat.

She curled harder into herself, desperate from that little bit of warmth to spread just a little further. She was freezing.


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Rebellion is for Losers

She grinned from ear to ear, admiring her wavy blonde hair and her soft pink dress in the mirror. Today was the day she was going to meet the prince who she was arranged to marry.

She’d heard from her mother that he was a little bit older than her, but he was handsome and kind. From her father, she heard he was powerful, and had wide tracts of land.

She placed her tiara on her, forcing herself to calm down enough to gracefully float downstairs to meet her parents.

He arrived at a little past ten. He had a goofy grin that was out of place with his regal attire. His hair was black and curly, and would’ve made him look ordinary but for the style, all trim and smooth, like he was wearing a silk wig.

He had high, soft cheekbones, and a small gold crown that could’ve matched her own. It was like destiny.

“Royals of the court, I present Prince Benedict.”

Even his name was regal. She melted.

Her mother lead her out towards him. She felt butterflies. “I am Queen Margaret. This is my daughter, Princess Elizabeth.”

“It’s a pleasure,” said Benedict.

She learned more about each other at the lunch table. He was 35, and she was 23. Not a bad match, to be fair. And he was rather handsome and approachable. She’d never met someone so kind.

“I love the court politics,” she told him. “I hope to one day make my country proud as queen. The only thing I’m looking forward to more is marriage. It’s such an exciting adventure, don’t you think?”

“You certainly strike me as adventurous,” he told her. “And you’re very loyal.”

“I need something to do all day. I can’t let myself become idle or I might get lazy.”

“Oh, I think you’re in no danger there,” said her mother. “You’re so ambitious.”

“Maybe you ought to slow down a bit sometimes,” suggested Benedict. “Sometimes the people want someone to relate to.”

“They want someone to look up to.”

“See, this is why you’d be such a good match,” interrupted her father. “You fill each other out so well. For the good of the kingdom.”

When they were together, she was so respectful. He never pressured her. It was in moments like these she knew her father was right.

They were just destined for each other. She couldn’t wait for the wedding.

Yes, I know it’s a bit Tangled meets Benedict Cumberbatch, but whatever. I like this one. A response to a dare: create a non-rebellious princess.